This slow-cooker turkey and butternut squash chili is the perfect dish to make for Fall and Winter, especially if you have leftover turkey from Thanksgiving. If not, the chili is also great with ground turkey, pork or beef. Or exclude the meat altogether and have an incredible vegetarian chili! The recipe is a perfect balance of sweet, spicy and smoky.
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Ingredients and Substitutions
I used cooked turkey leftover from our Thanksgiving meal for one testing, and for the other test I used a store-bought raw turkey breast and cooked it in the microwave. Ground turkey would work just fine also, but I would saute it with the onions and poblanos before adding to the crockpot to enhance the flavor.
Of course pork, chicken or beef would work just fine with the flavors in this recipe. Again however, if you use ground meat, saute it first with the onions to enhance flavor. Otherwise just chop your protein into bite size pieces and add to the slow cooker.
Vegetarian chili? You bet. Just use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth and exclude the meat.
I used fresh poblano peppers as they are medium spiciness and complement the smoky ancho powder used in the recipe. You could also use dried anchos which would rehydrate in the slow cooker broth.
If you like your chili with more spicy heat, you can always switch out the peppers to a jalapeno, serrano or even a habanero. Usually chili is made for a crowd with diverse tastes around hot peppers however. I would stick with a medium hot pepper and then serve the chili with a bottle of hot sauce on the table.
There are so many ways to go with spices. I used the classic cumin and bay leaf and then added a Mexican flair with a smoky ancho/chipotle mix and a little cinnamon.
**Pro Tip: toast cumin seeds lightly and then grind into a powder with your coffee grinder for superb extra flavor
Black beans are a classic when using the Mexican flavors in this dish. Kidney beans are a classic for chili in general, white beans complement chicken chili, and pinto beans work with all chilies. Black beans look particularly pretty with the orange squash in the Fall.
A chili recipe with beans and Mexican spices that is compliant with a slow carb diet is this crockpot big batch chili.
Can’t decide? Mix and match the beans to your preference.
Of course you can use dried beans if you are a bean afficiando, but I just opted for canned beans for ease. I use dried beans when the bean itself is the star, but in this chili, beans play a side role to the squash and poblano peppers.
How to Get the Smoky Flavor
A poblano pepper is the fresh version of an ancho pepper. The ancho pepper is smoked and dried and used extensively in Mexican cooking to add a smoky, medium background heat.
The chipotle pepper is a smoked and dried version of a jalapeno, but it is quite a bit spicier than the ancho. Just know that the heat level of these peppers varies quite a bit depending on where it was grown and how it was smoked.
In the recipe below I used a ”smoky mix” that we offer on our online store. It is a mix of ancho, chipotle and smoked pasilla. Our peppers tend to be on the spicier side, so start your chili with a little to get a bead on how hot it is going to turn out.
Did you know? The heat level of chile peppers is related to the amount of stress they have in their growing environment. We tend to have hot Summers and I don’t water that much so our peppers are generally ”stressed” and therefore tend to be on the hot side.
Recipe for Turkey Chili with Squash, Black Beans and Poblanos
Slow Cooker Turkey Chili
- 1-2 Pounds turkey can be ground turkey or chopped cooked turkey
- 2 Tablespoons oil
- 1 onion
- 2 poblano peppers fresh or dried
- 1 Tablespoon garlic minced
- 4 Cups butternut squash or other Winter squash; peeled and chopped
- 15 Oz canned black beans rinsed
- ¼ Cup tomato paste
- 2 Tablespoons smoked chile powder ancho, chipotle or mixed
- 1 Tablespoon ground cumin if possible toast the seeds and then grind
- ½ Teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¾ Teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 Cups chicken broth or water or vegetable broth
- if your turkey is leftover turkey, chop it into bite size pieces. If it is raw turkey breast, cook it (roast or microwave) until no longer pink. If you are using ground turkey, cook it in the skillet after the onions are caramelized.1-2 Pounds turkey
- Chop the onion and poblanos into small pieces. Heat oil in skillet and sauté onions 5-7 minutes until golden brown and caramelized. Add poblano peppers and cook an additional 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute.2 Tablespoons oil, 1 onion, 2 poblano peppers, 1 Tablespoon garlic
- Peel and chop the squash into bite size pieces.4 Cups butternut squash
- To the slow cooker add all ingredients (including the sauteed onion/pepper mix. Stir together and turn slow cooker onto low heat for 6 hours.1/4 Cup tomato paste, 2 Tablespoons smoked chile powder, 1 Tablespoon ground cumin, 1/2 Teaspoon ground cinnamon, 3/4 Teaspoon kosher salt, 1 bay leaf, 2 Cups chicken broth, 15 Oz canned black beans